At the G20 Summit, which involves the world’s twenty biggest economies in the world, the rift between the US and everyone else became evident. World leaders have made it very clear that the US is isolated in its position on climate change — everyone else is committed to reducing emissions and sticking to the Paris Agreement. It’s a disheartening situation, but it’s the reality we live in now.
The G20 Summit was rather eventful, with several noteworthy agreements, disagreements, and statements coming from world leaders. We’ll leave political things to be discussed elsewhere, but when it came to the environment, our interest was peaked. We all know President Donald Trump announced that he wants to exit the Paris Agreement (though it’s not clear if he actually can). The world’s responses (barring Russia’s Vladimir Putin, who seemed rather pleased) ranged from anger to disappointment, but no matter what their response was, everyone else re-expressed commitment to their previous stance. While Trump is ecstatic about coal and oil, the rest of the world will slowly drift away, focusing on climate action.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said that there’s no sugar-coating it.
“I think it’s very clear that we could not reach consensus, but the differences were not papered over, they were clearly stated,” Merkel told reporters at the end of the two-day meeting. “It’s absolutely clear it is not a common position.”
She went on to say that she “deplores” Trump’s decision, but this doesn’t change much for everyone else. The US is the world’s second largest polluter and responsible for a third of all historic greenhouse gas emissions, but the rest of the 19 biggest economies clearly overshadow it. Their action means much more than the American lack of action.
“You are familiar with the American position. You know that, unfortunately — and I deplore this — the United States of America left the climate agreement, or rather announced their intention to do so,” she said on the final day of the summit.
The official statement was also pretty raw, going directly against what Trump said, that the agreement can be “renegotiated”. There was also a subtle, but very strong signal in the official statements. The statement is written as “We” — as in the countries — but the US is treated separately. The communique reads:
“We take note of the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the Paris agreement,” adding: “The leaders of the other G20 members state that the Paris agreement is irreversible” and “we reaffirm our strong commitment to the Paris agreement”.
Meanwhile, the US managed to get in one paragraph, a positive-sounding but very vague line about reducing emissions.
“The United States of America states it will endeavour to work closely with other countries to help them access and use fossil fuels more cleanly and efficiently.”
The problem is that the US, or rather, the Trump administration representing the US, is not a big follower of facts, evidence, and economic realities. They have repeatedly expressed their support for fossil fuels, and their disdain for renewable energy. But in the context of a modern world, that’s completely baseless. A strong economy and a healthy planet are mutually reinforcing, as the final G20 statement says itself.
“A strong economy and a healthy planet are mutually reinforcing. We recognise the opportunities for innovation, sustainable growth, competitiveness, and job creation of increased investment into sustainable energy sources and clean energy technologies and infrastructure. We remain collectively committed to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions through, among others, increased innovation on sustainable and clean energies and energy efficiency, and work towards low greenhouse-gas emission energy systems.”
If Trump has his way, the US will join Syria (who is in a full-scale war) and Nicaragua (who wanted an even more ambitious pact) as the only countries outside of the Paris Agreement.